Breaking: The Protest in Taksim Square
Between Friskies commercials on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in America CNN is bringing live video coverage of the midnight protests in Taksim Square. The square is a typical tourist district within Istanbul that normally looks about like this:
The square is a hub for public transportation links and travel throughout the city. It’s also a popular location for political protests including “Bloody Sunday,” the Taksim Square massacre and a terrorist attack by a Kurdish suicide bomber in October 2010.
Since May 26, 2013 protesters have been occupying the square opposing the reconstruction of military barracks and construction of a shopping center on Gezi Park. These protesters were noted as peaceful by American correspondents. However, on May 31 police forces attacked the protesters with tear gas and water cannons. Today (early morning in Istanbul), the square looks like this:
The situation has undoubtedly escalated significantly since its initial mission to preserve the nature of Gezi Park (part of Taksim Square).
According to a man-on-the-street interview with a Turkish Economist/Activist, who was an initial park protester, stated the protest grew to other NGO protesters due to the lack of government responsiveness to the public.
She further said that Turkish media was “blacking out,” which led Turkish protesters to reach out to international media such as CNN, Aljeezera and the BBC. She said some also wrote to the European Union about the government’s blatant disregard for public opinion.
Additionally, protesters have set up their own streaming video of the events because of their frustration with Turkish media coverage.
The Turkish government has labeled protesters as extremists, however live coverage depicts a much different profile of the protesters. CNN correspondents are consistently referring to people as professionals who come out at night to protest. The more the government attempts to end protests the more these individuals are determined to stay.
The demonstrators are heavily criticizing Prime Minister Recap Tayyip Erdogan, the 10 year incumbent who is noted as, “consevative and uncompromising” also criticized for his excessive use of police forces.
Citizens are saying, “they [government] needs to realize this [Gezi Park] belongs to the people of Istanbul.”
The White House issued a reaction stating, they will continue to follow Turkey with concern and express concerned that peoples’ rights to protest are being tested. The White House stands by the peoples’ right (in a democratic nation) to assemble. The government needs to maintain a dialog for stability. The White House maintains its relationship with Turkey as an allies in the Middle East.
This a profound statement as Istanbul is referred to as, “the bridge to the middle east.”
Dramatic development substantial amount of tear gas has been fired into Gezi Park. *6:48 p.m America/1:48 a.m. Turkey
The major of Istanbul, Kadir Topbas, has stated police forces will continue until the park is clear. Not counting today there have been over 500,000 injuries reported.
Protests began two weeks ago over a proposed redevelopment of Gezi Park in Taksim Square escalated into nationwide anti-government demonstrations following a police crackdown.
It is still specifically unclear what demonstrators are peaceful until something broke out that sparked police movement.
Turkey is very different from most middle eastern countries. It is considered very modern, wealthy and has a thriving middle class. The economy and GDP has been on a significant rise over the past decade.
Washington Turkish analyst discuss that the “risk” in Turkey is social polarization, which citizens are especially motivated to protest. They are expressing frustration over conservative Islamic values that are influencing legislation.
“Suddenly the world is awakening politically,” said a Turkish political expert. “It is very polarized between the government and the opposition of the government.”
Opponents to Turkish government are alienated, providing little to no checks and balances on policy-making which causes tensions to rise in light of recent issues in neighboring Syria.
When the prime minister visited the United States less than a month ago there was no real indication that this type of incident would arise. As Anwa Damon stood with her gas mask and mic in hand, protesters yelled, “this is f—ing America doing this.”
According to Christopher Civvis, senior political scientist with a focus on Eurasian politics for RAND, said President Obama may opt to press for Turkish guarantees of military, political, and financial support for an intervention in Syrian conflicts.
“Turkey is well positioned to take the lead in an intervention, provided U.S. backing. Obama might rightly ask why the United States should support an intervention in Syria if Turkey is not willing to take on more of the burden.”
Turkey pushed for a greater U.S. role in Syria, but has given fewer promises about what it would be willing to do if an intervention did take place.
Pundits are speculating the protests and backlash are rooted in much deeper issues than the preservation/reconstruction of a park.
News professionals are dubbing the issue a “culture clash” between conservative government and modern population.
As of now it’s a complicated mix of topics coming to a “T.” Border issues, allied partnerships, terror attacks, and environmental issues are becoming convoluted into yet another so called “up-rising.”
“The new, rising middle class has found a voice and is using social media to organize,” a CNN analyst has said.
Protesters were scheduled to meet with the government tomorrow (today in Turkey).